These days, everyone with a Netflix account and a podcast app fancies themselves as a bit of a crime-solving detective in training.
True crime, thrillers and mysteries are having a real pop culture moment right about now, which is why there’s never been a better time for the world’s most famous murder mystery to be reinvented for the big screen.
Murder on the Orient Express is the ultimate “who done it” and is packed with more movie stars than the front row of the Oscars, but that’s not what makes this movie such compelling viewing.
The real hook is the way this myriad of zany characters are meshed together on the film, and the subtle way their stories unfold on screen, that pushes this mystery along.
For those of you who haven’t read Dame Agatha Christie’s bestselling novel on which the movie is based, or laid eyes upon the the original film version or the BBC series, the story follows world-famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (played by Kenneth Branagh, who also directed the film), as he boards the legendary Orient Express after solving a case and is en route to solve another.
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While on board the train, he encounters an interesting assortment of characters who all seem like run of the mill, slightly eccentric travellers at first, but we slowly learn that all is not as it seems. When a passenger is mysteriously stabbed to death in the middle of the night and the train is derailed by snowfall, everyone on board suddenly becomes a murder suspect.
Michelle Pfeiffer, as the playful yet sharp-tongued Caroline Hubbard, is a particular delight on screen. As is the always-creepy-but-this-time-even-more-so Johnny Depp. The rest of the star-studded cast is rounded out by Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe, Penélope Cruz, Derek Jacobi, Daisy Ridley and Leslie Odom Jr.
With such an immense cast of characters and well-known faces in play, you can really be left feeling like you didn’t get to spend enough time with each one of these interesting characters as they parade across the screen. It’s almost like you were only granted access to the blurb of each person’s book, even though you desperately wanted to read their entire manuscript. And yet, there’s still enough meat there to leave you feeling satisfied at the end.
As I watched this adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express, I felt a sudden pang of jealously for anyone who isn’t familiar with the original source material or who didn’t already know how the story would end before settling into their cinema seat.
Many years ago, I read the book (which is the definition of a page turner) and as I’ve also seen Sidney Lumet’s 1974 film version, for me watching this interpretation of the classic story was an enjoyable experience, but there were no real surprises in store while watching the “reboot”.
However, there are a few interesting character switch ups in the 2017 version that will appeal to long term fans of the original. For example, the character of Dr. Arbuthnot, who was originally portrayed by Sean Connery, is now being played by Leslie Odom, Jr. A casting decision that not only works because of Odom's talent, but also brings the topic of race into the movie's conversation.
The set pieces and costumes are also a feast for the eyes, you know you're onto a good thing when a costume is so great it nearly distracts you from trying to detect the disguised killer. The movie itself is sweeping and opulent enough to justify seeing it on the big screen.
But the biggest selling point for this movie will always be watching all the puzzle pieces come together as the murder is solved, because watching the big reveal unfold on screen is a truly beguiling cinema experience. It's easy to see why Christie's work is still one of the most enduring murder mysteries we've ever seen, and this adaption fully does it justice.
So if you don't know the ending to Murder on the Orient Express, you're in for a truly wild ride. And if someone tries to spoil it for you, scratch out their eyes, run away and hide yourself in an underground bunker, because you'll want to experience all the twists and turns for yourself.
So, it's time to push your Netflix crime solving antics aside for a few hours, and try your hand at a big screen mystery.
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Murder on the Orient Express is in cinemas Australia wide. It is rated M.